What would a prayer look like from a biblical perspective for a nation such as the United States? Are there parallels that we can find from Scripture? What is a model prayer that we can find in the Bible to use for praying for America?
Nehemiah’s prayer found in chapter one of his book is an ideal prayer for any nation or individual. It is especially relevant to the state that the United States of America presently finds itself in today. Like Jerusalem, the walls are crumbling down around this great nation; economically and morally. What was once the most prosperous nation that the world has ever seen has been steadily shrinking and is in a state of decline today. Today the world’s highest standard of living is not in the United States as it once was. Nations with the highest per capita income are now Norway and Switzerland. The U.S. is presently third but is closely followed by Japan, Denmark, and Sweden and they are closing in fast. Based upon the gross national product, the U.S. isn’t even in the top 12 list of the fastest growing nations of the world. China’s looming shadow threatens to cover every nation.
A Nation in Peril
Israel was in serious trouble. The walls of Jerusalem were crumbling. The gates had been burned by fire. The gates of ancient cities were where most of the commerce of took place. The gates were also where the seat of government and leadership resided. With the gates burned with fire and the walls broken down, it was only a matter of time before the nation followed suit. Nehemiah knowing that Jerusalem was near total depravity, fell down on his face and prayed a prayer that is worth repeating here for the United States and for other nations as well. It is a model prayer and one that resembles a national prayer for restoration and repentance. It is also a model prayer for individuals.
Troubling News Comes to Nehemiah
Nehemiah heard a report about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem which said that, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire” (Nehemiah 1:3).
What was Nehemiah’s response? “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven” Nehemiah 1:4). This is the first thing that Americans or those of other nations can do for their nation: Pray – in fact, pray and fast.
Nehemiah‘s Prayer – A National Model for Prayer
After hearing the alarming report about Jerusalem, Nehemiah prayers a most powerful prayer and not only is it a model for praying for a nation, it is a supreme example of a model prayer for each one of us individually. God loves it when we pray back prayers from His words in the Bible. He also honors it when we claim those promises that He makes in Scripture. Nehemiah starts his four part prayer based upon the model prayer that Jesus gave in what many call The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. Just like this model prayer in Matthew, Nehemiah starts off with adoration, then moves to confession, claiming God’s promises, and lastly makes requests or supplications.
“LORD, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments“(Nehemiah 1:5).
Nehemiah first exalts the name of God. He lifts up His glory and praises Him for His greatness.
“Let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you” (Nehemiah 1:6).
Nehemiah, even though he is not personally responsible still confesses with his mouth his sins and the sins of his nation.
“We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses” (Nehemiah 1:7).
He says “we” have acted very wickedly toward God and acknowledged that “we” (the nation) has not obeyed God’s commands.
Claiming God’s Promises
“Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name‘(Nehemiah 1:8-9).
God is faithful to the promises that He makes and will not relent on them but we must first fulfill our obligation to obey His commands before He will fulfill them.
“They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man” (Nehemiah 1:10-11).
Only after Nehemiah exalts God, confesses his and the nations sin, and claims God’s promises, does he make his requests known to God. Unless a person or nation exalts God He will not exalt them. Until a person or nation as a whole confesses sin, He will not forgive them and fulfill His promises to be with them. And if they exalt God, confess their sin and repent, and claim His promises, only then can they expect to receive an answer to their prayer.
When tragedy strikes in public schools, when injustice is found in the courtrooms, or when national disasters occur people say “Where was God?” I believe that they have kicked Him out! How can a nation that is slowing ridding herself of God from the public and private sector expect God to come to their aid when disaster strikes? Unless the Lord is their God or a person’s Lord and God, He will not fulfill His promise to be with them. Unless a person or nation confesses their sins, He will not forgive them. Until a nation or person exalts God and humbles themselves, He will not exalt them but abase them.
God resists the proud but only gives grace to the humble and those of a contrite spirit as He says in Isaiah 66:2, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” We do not as a nation tremble at His Word. If this nation or a person is proud He will resist them. Until we humble ourselves and fall at His feet and ask for forgiveness – in repentance – He will withdraw from this nation or any person.
ACTS – A Model for Prayer
I beseech you to pray in this manner as an individual and as a nation wherever you live to seek the face of God, exalt His name, ask for forgiveness, and repent – praying for national revival. Draw a circle of chalk around you. Inside this circle is where revival starts. It starts with me and you. The Great Awakening of the 1700’s was perhaps the greatest revival in the history of Christianity. It started with one man: George Whitefield. Here is a model prayer for each one of us and as a nation for personal and national revival to begin. It goes by the acronym A.C.T.S.
A – Adoration of God
C – Confession of sin in repentance
T – Thanksgiving to God for His goodness
S – Supplications or prayer requests